Bailey ponders path chosen

By Danielle McGrane

Comedian’s show looks at gap between how we imagine our lives and how we are.

Bill Bailey admits he has got to a point in his life when he's stopping and assessing things, just in time for his upcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand.

The popular English comedian has announced he will take his new show, Limboland, Downunder this November when he aims to explore the gap between how we imagine our lives and how we really are.

It all sounds rather soul-searching and spiritual. But Bailey, like a true Englishman, is far more comfortable comparing it to a cup of tea.

"I think that it struck me as quite an interesting area to explore. You can look at it from different levels: almost like preparing a cup of tea," he says.

"You could have really high hopes for this cup of tea. But if it didn't pan out, if it's too hot and I burn my mouth, I have to chuck it out and start again." It seems befitting that Bailey might want to stop and consider how he got here, considering his own path has had such an interesting trajectory.

It's taken him from success as a stand-up comedian to roles on popular TV shows Black Books and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. And then on to make wildlife documentaries, such as Bill Bailey's Jungle Hero - a two-part documentary about naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin.

"I found myself in the Borneo Jungle and in the Amazon looking at moths with a moth expert," he says, sounding amazed by his own random life journey.

"There's something profound or life-changing when you start thinking about the dreams you had as a child and what kind of job you'd end up doing, and how life takes different paths to get you to where you are now," he says.

The comedian says he plans to explore ideas about whether or not there are external forces at play pushing us to certain points in our lives, or whether it's all just part of a plan we had the whole time which has subconsciously played out.

He mentions one story he uses to illustrate his point on stage about how one word can change the course of your life.

"When I was a young man and a girl invited me to her house, one word was said and I realised she wasn't the right person for me," he says.

While Bailey is keeping the word a secret to be revealed on his show, he says audiences in Britain have reacted emotionally to this story and stories like them.

"There was this collective exhaling from the audience of people thinking 'maybe our lives are these random things or maybe we find the people who are supposed to be with us'," he says.

He admits this emotional connection with his audience is something he now seeks out. "There was an emotional subtext to it, that's something I would seek out," he says.

"I can do funny. I'm at peace with myself with that. I can tell myself 'that's fine, Bill, you don't have to keep proving yourself you big, bearded fool'," he says.

Audiences around the world would be forced to agree with him. Yes, Bailey can do funny and he intends to do it with his new show when he tours. And however profound it may sound, he says he still relishes some banter from the crowd, something he says audiences are really up for.

"I like to look at it as exchanges, which very often will enhance the performance," he says.

Tour preview

Who: Bill Bailey
When and where: Wellington: Michael Fowler Centre, Saturday Nov 1; Christchurch: CBS Arena, Monday November 3; Hamilton: Founders Theatre Friday November 7; New Plymouth: TSB Theatre, Sunday November 9


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